It has taken me a journey of thirty-one years and 7,700 miles from my birthplace to discover the single most powerful phrase in the English language. I did not learn it in the thousands of books I’ve read, through the thousands of hours of television I’ve watched, or from a loinclothed guru high in the Himalayas. No: the most powerful phrase in the English language is in common use in nearly every meeting, every debate, every exchange of ideas in India.
“Do one thing.”
You cannot dilute the power of these words — no matter how many times you hear it in the same meeting. Forty-five minutes of debate over whether the headline should be set in 24- or 26-point type instantly ceases as every head swivels towards the person who uttered the magic word. Mouths snap shut, eyes peer expectantly, and every mind thinks the same thought: “Someone’s figured out what to do next!”
“Let’s do one thing,” says Pankaj. “Let’s order both veg and non-veg.”
“Do one thing,” says Murali. “Set the headline in Times New Roman.”
“You have carpal tunnel? Do one thing,” says Shilpa. “Adjust your chair higher, put something underneath your feet, and put the keyboard on your lap.”
One thing can be ten things, but it’s still one thing: it’s clarity. It’s an answer. It’s a solution. It’s a way to move forward. “Do one thing” is so powerful because it implies an exit from this mess. “Do one thing” means that debate is over and it’s time for action. To argue with “do one thing” is to be against progress, against action. A “do one thing” solution is one that is presented not for consideration but for execution.
It works. It’s amazing. For twenty minutes you’ll be mourning the TV shows you’ll be missing and the dinner that will be getting cold because the meeting about the new tagline for the new server product will never end; and then suddenly someone utters the magic words, and you’re on your way home with simple clarity as to what has to happen next. “Do one thing” works even when “one thing” is as nonsensical as being tasked to “find a word for ‘IT’ that doesn’t invoke images of technology.” No one in the meeting realizes how impossible the task is because how hard could it be? All you have to do is do one thing.